Weekend Getaways

10 Favorite Weekend Getaway Destinations in Florida

Over the years, we have published dozens of articles highlighting some of the best weekend getaway destinations in Florida. But one thing that we have never done is put together an article highlighting the best of the best when it comes to getting out of town for a few days.  

If you are thinking about planning a weekend getaway of your own, we believe these ten destinations are the best places to start. So pick whichever one that you haven't been to yet and start planning your next trip! 

Daytona Beach Pier

Daytona Beach Pier

Daytona Beach 

Everyone knows that Daytona Beach is home to the famous Daytona International Speedway. And if NASCAR is your thing, this is definitely a trip that should be on your list. But there is also a lot more that Daytona Beach has to offer for a weekend getaway.  

You can choose to stay at a wide range of excellent resorts located right along the "World's Most Famous Beach," and you won't want to leave without taking a stroll out onto the Daytona Beach Pier. 

Las Olas Boulevard

Las Olas Boulevard

Fort Lauderdale 

Fort Lauderdale is known for two things: it's iconic beachfront and the equally iconic shopping available on Las Olas Boulevard. This is a perfect destination for anyone who is passionate about arts and culture mixed with beachfront living.  

While you are in Fort Lauderdale, make sure that you take the time to drive, ride, or stroll through Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and stop for burgers and beer at the park restaurant.  

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Jacksonville 

The Jaguars put Jacksonville back on the map, but Florida residents have always known that this is a great spot for a weekend getaway. If you’re looking for an affordable way to stay at a luxury beachfront hotel, this is your destination. Jacksonville is also home to more than 20 miles of beautiful beaches, and they have the largest urban park system in the country.

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Key West 

You might think you know what to expect from a weekend in Key West, but you honestly haven't lived the complete Florida experience until you’ve explored some of the outstanding bars and restaurants that are located just off of the famous Duval Street.  

Miami Sunset

Miami Sunset

Miami 

Miami is best known for the late-night club scene you will find in South Beach, but this popular tourist destination actually has something for everyone. And because there are so many tourists that frequent the area, you can always find an Uber driver, and there are often some great deals on last-minute hotel rooms. 

While you are in town, make sure that you head down to Joe's Stone Crab. They offer two versions of the Joe's experience with the casual take-out side and the formal restaurant side.  

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Orlando 

It's all about the theme parks in Orlando, and since Florida residents get discounted admission, this is the type of getaway that will make all of your friends and relatives around the country jealous.  

While you are in Orlando, head over to one of the interesting seasonal events at Epcot, and don't forget to check out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. 

Gallery Night

Gallery Night

Pensacola 

When you are ready to start exploring the Panhandle, Pensacola is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Here you will find lots of history that you can explore through walking tours. Plus, the city is also home to a thriving community of artists with galleries.  

Pensacola is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum and the world-famous Blue Angels.  

St. Lucie Trail Golf Club

St. Lucie Trail Golf Club

Port St. Lucie 

Most of our favorite weekend getaway destinations are cities or towns that are filled with fun things to do and great places to eat. But if you are looking for a getaway that is focused on golfing in a relaxing environment, Port St. Lucie should be at the top of your list.  

Port St. Lucie is also the winter home of the New York Mets, so make sure you plan your trip around Spring Training! 

Nights of Lights

Nights of Lights

St. Augustine 

In terms of history, no city in the country can match what you will find in St. Augustine. Known as the "Nation's Oldest City," it is here that you will find landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos, Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse.  

But don't let the history make you think that St. Augustine doesn't have a modern flair as well. The city is also home to a thriving restaurant scene where you will be hard pressed to run out of options.  And now is the perfect time to visit as they have the Nights of Lights running nightly November 23rd, 2019 through February 2nd, 2020.

Palm Beach Zoo

Palm Beach Zoo

West Palm Beach 

Don't let the name fool you because West Palm Beach is actually located on the east coast of Florida, just north of Fort Lauderdale. This classic "Old Florida" community is home to stunning white sand beaches, as well as four different retail districts to keep all the shopaholics happy.  

West Palm Beach is also home to the Palm Beach Zoo and the Norton Museum of Art.  

When you live at the Villages of Citrus Hills, you may never feel the urge to leave the community. But if you decide to venture out, you can’t go wrong with any of the destinations we’ve mentioned here.

5 Fun Things to Do in Clearwater

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Located on the Gulf Coast just west of Tampa, Clearwater is a little more than 90 minutes away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. And while those 90 minutes might not seem like much, spending time in this beachside paradise will make you feel like you are miles from anywhere resembling your normal life.

If you are looking to plan a weekend getaway to the beach or simply want a fresh day trip destination, the Clearwater area is packed full of things to do. Let’s jump right into the warm water and check out five fun things to do on your next trip to this white sand paradise.


Hit the Beach

When a destination is known around the world for its beautiful white sand beaches, spending some time enjoying those beaches should be at the very top of every visitor’s list.

Clearwater Beach is the most popular beach destination in the area, and it offers an absolutely gorgeous stretch of pristine sand and crystal clear water. This is the perfect place to lay out, walk with your feet in the water, or go for a swim.

So grab a towel, kick off your shoes, and get ready to hit the beach.

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Beach Walk

When you are ready for a break from the beach, the Beach Walk pedestrian area offers a nice place to stroll along a paved sidewalk under the shade of palm trees.

The road is pushed back a bit from this area, which is also filled with local shops, restaurants, and an old-time ice cream parlor.

You won’t believe some of the cool things you will find in the boutique shops along the Beach Walk, so this is the perfect way to get your shopaholic fix in Clearwater.

Pier 60

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Another popular destination that isn’t far from the beach is Pier 60. This 1,080-foot fishing pier is the perfect place to cast a line in Clearwater, day or night.

There is a small fishing shop right on the pier that can fix you up with everything you need to catch local fish like Spanish mackerel and spotted trout.

The pier also features a constant flow of entertainment from local musicians and jugglers, so there is always something to see and do here. It’s also a wonderful spot to watch the sunset.

Kayaking & Standup Paddleboarding

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Whether you prefer to kick back in a kayak or do your paddling while standing up, there are a number of fantastic paddling options around Clearwater for anyone who prefers to relax out on the water.

Spending some time exploring the waters around Sand Key Park, Moccasin Lake Nature Park, or Cliff Stephens Park is an activity that you could base an entire trip around.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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In addition to everything there is to do outdoors, Clearwater is also home to the famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This massive aquarium features all kinds of marine life on display, including Winter, the dolphin who served as the inspiration for the movie Dolphin’s Tale.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium specializes in marine rehabilitation, so you can also learn quite a bit about how they are working to improve conditions for marine life along the Gulf Coast.

From kicking back on the beach to paddling kayaks through untouched nature parks, everything in Clearwater is focused on relaxation. So the next time you feel the need for a day or two of recovery, let Clearwater help you reconnect to nature in whatever way works best for you.

 

5 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

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Located west of Tampa and under two hours from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Dunedin is a beach lover's paradise that also offers a unique version of that small-town Florida culture.

Because the entire area is stunningly beautiful, you won’t ever have to work very hard to find a perfect way to spend some time in Dunedin. But we can make your next day trip even easier by suggesting these five fun things to do in this amazing little town along the Gulf.



Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Parks

Caladesi Island State Park is one of the most popular destination for anyone visiting Dunedin, and all it takes is one quick look at this untouched island paradise to understand why so many people flock to this park.

The beautiful white sand beaches are the primary attraction here, and there is nothing wrong with planning to spend your entire visit kicking back with your feet in the water. In addition to the beaches, Caladesi Island State Park is also a fantastic spot for boating and fishing.

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If you like spending time at Caladesi Island State Park, you will also want to be sure to check out its twin island to the north, Honeymoon Island State Park. This is another island park that boasts white sand beaches, outstanding fishing, and first-class boat launches.

In addition to the standard amenities, Honeymoon Island State Park also offers a three-mile trail that runs through the center of the island where you can catch glimpses of local wildlife like gopher tortoises, armadillos, eagles, and great horned owls.

Dunedin Fine Art Center

You don’t need a perfect day to enjoy Dunedin, and you can even have a blast there on a rainy day if you visit attractions like the Dunedin Fine Art Center. This local art center has been hosting classes and exhibits for more than 35 years now.

It can be fun to stop by at any time, but you will get the most out of your visit if you schedule it around a class to get your hands dirty with anything from clay pottery to drawing to digital arts.

Dunedin Histoy Museum

Another popular indoor attraction in Dunedin is the Dunedin History Museum. This small museum tells the story of Dunedin through a rich collection of historical artifacts and documents.

The museum is also the meeting place for the Downtown Dunedin Walking Tours, which are a fabulous way to get to know this fascinating little Florida town.

Pinellas Trail

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Dunedin is also one of the mid-point stops on the Pinellas Trail, which is a rail trail that runs through Pinellas County from Tarpon Springs all the way down through St. Petersburg.

By starting your trail adventure in Dunedin, you have the option of heading in either direction on the 38-mile trail, which can take you to any of the other stops on the trail like Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, South Pasadena, or Gulfport.

No matter what attractions you might be planning to enjoy in Dunedin, you can also have a great pint before or after at one of the many local breweries. There is also plenty of great shopping at the Dunedin Downtown Market, so make sure you plan on spending some time there before heading back home.

 

Weekend Getaway: 48 Hours in Gainesville

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Are you ready for another weekend getaway?

Looking for a destination that is packed full of fun outdoor activities and unbelievably delicious dining options?

Located just a little over an hour north of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Gainesville is a thriving college town that offers one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway packed full of great food and fun activities.

While just about everyone in Florida knows that Gainesville is the place to be during home football games every fall, we have actually found the town is just as enjoyable during the rest of the year as well.

If you are in the market for an easy weekend getaway where all the details are planned out in advance, here is the 48-hour itinerary that we recommend for a first trip to “The Swamp.”

Day One: Casual Dining and School History

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Assuming that you are going to plan on arriving in Gainesville hungry, our first stop is going to be Public & General. This is a hip lunch spot where patrons serve themselves from a menu of specialty sandwiches or by customizing a cheese and charcuterie plate.

Following lunch, we are going to introduce you to the thing that Gainesville is most famous for: The University of Florida. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring the exciting student union building and walking past the massive Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

For dinner on your first night in town, it has to be The Top. This casual downtown restaurant specializes in big-time burgers, but make sure that you also order some of their famous Corn Nuggets.

You’re welcome to hang out at The Top as late as you like, but when you’re ready for a change of scenery we recommend a quick stroll over to Madrina’s for a fantastic selection of craft cocktails to close out your night.

Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining

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The first stop for our second day in Gainesville is going to be the 6,400-square-foot Butterfly Rainforest. On any given day, you will find up to 50 different species of butterflies occupying this amazing space, making it the most popular non-football-related attraction in all of Gainesville.  

After enjoying the Butterfly Rainforest, our next stop is La Cocina De Abuela for some authentic Cuban cuisine. This is a great lunch spot because everything is fast and easy. Just pick the type of rice, beans, and meat you want and you’re on your way. We recommend going with the Mojo Pork.  

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Following lunch we’re heading back outdoors to explore the swamps that this town is known for at Paynes Prairie. This is a beautiful outdoor space that might give you the chance to catch a glimpse of an authentic Florida gator, wild horses or even bison.

For your second dinner in Gainesville, it’s time to class things up a bit, so we’re making reservations at Ember’s Wood Grill. This is a first-class steakhouse so you can feel confident ordering your favorite cut, and make sure you get the Lobster Mashed Potatoes.  

After having an outstanding meal at Ember’s Wood Grill, there is nothing wrong with heading straight to bed. But if you would rather enjoy your last night in town, we suggest heading down to Sidecar Gainesville to cap off your visit in true college fashion.

Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping

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The last popular attraction that you have to see on your first trip to Gainesville is the Florida Museum of Natural History. This is a small museum, but it is packed full of interesting local history, and you can’t argue with the price because it’s FREE! 

We can’t recommend coming back from any 48-hour adventure without having a decent brunch, and the place to find a great one in Gainesville is Daybreak Pleasant Street. Whether you are looking for basic pancakes, huevos rancheros, or something a little more specific like the Daybreak Hash, this is a brunch that will not let you down.  

If you are looking to do a bit of shopping before heading back home, downtown Gainesville is the perfect place to explore all kinds of unique shops that all feature plenty of University of Florida gear.  

In addition to all of the things to see and do in Gainesville, there are also plenty of lodging options in and around this popular college town.  

So the next time you are looking for a good destination for a little weekend getaway, think about heading north to Gainesville….just remember to check the football schedule before you book your trip!

Weekend Getaway: New Smyrna Beach

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Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills typically feel that the Gulf Coast offers the best version of the Florida retirement lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that a weekend trip to the Atlantic Coast isn't warranted every once in a while.  

With its crashing waves and laid-back atmosphere, New Smyrna Beach is the perfect destination for Gulf Coast beach bums looking to head east for a relaxing weekend getaway. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, this is our best advice for making the most out of your trip.  

Places to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

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TripAdvisor.com doesn't always get it right in their rankings of the best hotels in a particular area, but we think they are right on the money in having The Black Dolphin Inn ranked at the top of their list for New Smyrna Beach. This stunning bed and breakfast will cater to your every need and have you staying right near all of the action downtown.

If staying on the beach is more of a priority for you, then the Atlantic Plaza comes highly recommended in New Smyrna Beach. These oceanfront condos will have you sleeping within steps of those famous Atlantic Ocean waves.  

Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach 

The beach is one of the popular tourist attractions in New Smyrna Beach, and we highly recommend planning to spend the bulk of your weekend enjoying the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. You will find that surfing, boogie boarding, and body surfing are all popular here, but strolling through the sand looking for shells can be just as enjoyable if you don't want to get wet.

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In between beach sessions, you will also want to check out some of the many local art galleries that you will find around town. New Smyrna Beach is known as a "small art town," which means that there are lots of independent local artists that have come together to create a very unique cultural community.

 

Places to Eat in New Smyrna 

In keeping with the theme of everything else, you will find the restaurant scene offers a fantastic selection of casual restaurants serving up world-class food paired with some truly outstanding wine lists.  One of the popular restaurants is SoNapa Grille, which is known for their Lobster Bisque and their wine list, but won't disappoint you with anything in between those either.  

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Other popular restaurants include The Garlic, which has a special approach to all of your favorite garlic-forward dishes, and Norwood's Eatery & Treehouse Bar, which is definitely one of the coolest destinations in town.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the fantastic dining you will find in New Smyrna Beach, which makes this a perfect destination to revisit.  

With fantastic restaurants, first-class lodging, and one of the best beaches you will find along the Atlantic Coast, there is no reason not to make the two-hour drive for a weekend getaway as often as you can. When are you going to be taking your next trip?